What is my recourse if my employee handbook said that workers were required to take a half hour lunch but most of my shifts I work alone so lunch was not possible?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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What is my recourse if my employee handbook said that workers were required to take a half hour lunch but most of my shifts I work alone so lunch was not possible?

Recently, I got fired from my job of 8 years. Virtually 99% of my shifts I worked alone or no one could cover so I could take a lunch. Also, I was lied to for first 6 years about the amount of vacation time that I was supposed to receive. Do I have a case?

Asked on December 19, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Michigan


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

As long as you were paid for all the time you worked, you do not have a viable claim: there is no after-the-fact compensation for not having gotten lunch breaks so long as, if you worked through lunch, you were paid for it if you were an hourly employee. (If salaried, your employer did not need to provide any additional compensation: you salary is your total compensation for all work you do during  the week, and it is not infrequent for salaried employees to work through lunch.) If you were hourly and were not paid for the time you spent working through lunch, you could sue for back pay for the unpaid time.
What do you mean that you were lied to about how much vacation you were suppposed to receive? IF they told you were earning a certain number of days but they did not let you take days that you had earned or accrued, you could in theory sue for the days you were not given, though it may be difficult to prove that you had the days *and* were denied their use (if you didn't ask take them because you were too busy or didn't want to spend the time and money on a vacation then, obviously, your employer is not liable) unless you have written documentation of both the days you had and of being denied the use of them.
On the other hand, if you mean they originally told you that you'd get, say, 3 weeks per year, but then they changed that to 2 weeks per year, that is legal: employers may change the accrual of vacation time at will, on notice to the employee, so long as there was no written employment contract guarantying a set amount of vacation. This is different from the situation above: if days are actually earned, you must be allowed to use them, because they are part of the compensation you worked for--but just as your pay can be changed at will, so can the vacation you earn, so you have no right to any particular amount of as-yet unearned vacation time.

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